Thursday, December 24, 2020

Soul - Movie Review

The Movie: Soul

The Director: Pete Docter, Kemp Powers

The Cast: Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Graham Norton, Rachel House, Alice Braga, Richard Ayoade, Phylicia Rashad, Donnell Rawlings, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, Angela Bassett, Daveed Diggs, Wes Studi

The Story: A musician who has lost his passion for music is transported out of his body and must find his way back with the help of an infant soul learning about herself.

The Review:
Oh Pixar. Your endless attempts at getting all up in people's emotions have been a staple of modern cinema and a benchmark for quality when it comes to the world of animation. The creative team loves to tackle concepts about life and death and what it all means and this movie is yet another example of the deep well of creativity the company has at its disposal. What I love most about the company is how they are never satisfied and are always looking at new ways to tell stories by bringing in new people with new ideas on how to tell them.

Jazz with all of its beauty and artistry is woven through every aspect of the movie giving the whole thing a very soulful and wholesome feel to it which is all very warm and satisfying. Musically, renowned musician and bandleader Jon Batiste is on board to provide all of the jazz compositions for the movie while Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross add another strong score to their already impressive resume. The intricate jazz tunes blend beautifully with the similarly scored soundtrack to create a musical heartbeat that pushes the story along.

The story itself explores a few different concepts like seeing the importance of living a good life, understanding that the life we have lived has led us perfectly to where we are right now, and how finding our purpose in life may not be exactly what we intended. As I mentioned earlier, this is perfectly in line with the Pixar way of storytelling and the balance between life lessons, endearing comedy, and very human characters who are not always very human at all. It's been interesting to see the company transition from telling metaphorical stories through toys and animals to getting deep down into the heart and mind of actual human characters.

Part of this transition has been thanks to advances in animation technology and now days Pixar has their techniques for creating humans beings so locked in they can focus more and more of their attention on the subtleties and stylizations that cater to the stories being told. One of the best moments of the movie is a scene that takes place in a black owned barber shop which, culturally is about as iconic of a community venue as you will ever find. You can just feel the culture and history and the humanity that seems to be as much a part of the business as the framed photos and stacks of old magazines that fill out the small yet robust space.

The barber shop scene is just a few moments of the movie but it is a turning point for both Joe and 22, voiced by Jamie Foxx and Tina Fey respectively, as they each realize a little more of the humanity that had been completely unaware of. Up to this point, Joe has been single minded in his quest for destiny while 22 has been doing everything she possibly can to avoid her own destined humanity. They each have a very narrow perspective on what it means to be human and their journey together really opens things up to so much possibility and ultimately to what they are each meant to be in life.

The Verdict:
Soul is filled with so much life and heart and, while it may not have the heavy hitting emotional punch that some of the animation studio's finest projects are known for, it might just be one their most relatable and endearing efforts to date. If Pixar can keep making stories that have this much humanity and cultural relevance, they will themselves stay relevant for a very long time.

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